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One of those days…

After talking about his experience with mobile phone retailers last week, SMS Text News reader Ben Harvey is back with a little Friday afternoon entertainment. Just don’t ask him about his day…

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I’m having one of those days. Like it or not, you and your mobile are partners and, like an old, married couple, one of you wears the trousers in the relationship and the other one merely pays for everything. And I’m afraid to break this to you, but you’re not the one who has to worry about catching his dong in his zip.

I’m having one of those days. A day that’s hit me with a nasty mix of bugs and idiots, all channelled through my handset like ghosts through a ouija-board.  Bugs can, of course, be anything; your handset won’t synch with your laptop. The router at Caffé Nero needs to be reset but the work-experience boy behind the counter doesn’t know how to do it, so instead of happily sniggering at The Register whilst drinking your coffee you’re stuck trying to decrypt that one Italian tabloid that’s always left in the bloody paper-rack.

…we’ve all been there…

Idiots, on the other hand, should be avoidable, but they always manage to pester and annoy – the call-centre agent ringing ‘to see if you’re happy with your package”. Some anonymous spiv on the make who spams you with business cards simply because you’re at the same meeting as him and he now wants you in his ‘human web”. Or – and call me old-fashioned, here – you just have a bad phone call, one which terminates with you flinging your phone at the wall and screaming ‘well, f*** you then!”.

…I mean, seriously, the Samaritans aren’t what they used to be…

I’m having one of THOSE days, a mix of technology not doing what it’s designed to, of people not doing what they’re supposed to and life – at least, that portion of it pumped through fibre-optics truck cabling, a mast or two and thence into my delicate little ear-hole – isn’t going quite according to plan. You look down at your handset, you feel the weight of it in your hand and think…I wish I could be rid of you. Just for a day.

But there’s an old saying. Beware of what you wish for.

This is a big ask, but I’m going to imagine, now, that that wish came true. Imagine a world without your mobile. It’s such a vital, vital thing to so many of us now that it’s hard to re-adjust your head to a time – before 3G, before colour LCDs, before text messaging, before the car-phone – when the only calls you could make were from chunky lumps of plastic that lurked on your desk and had a curly wire stuck up their arse.

What is it…say, fifteen years? 180 months of the most phenomenal development that any industry in the history of history has ever, ever seen. People sometimes point at the personal computer as being the prime example of a field that’s undergone incredibly swift progress; they’ll mutter things about the internet and then round off their argument with Moore’s Law, that twee, soundbitish little maxim that computing power doubles every eighteen months.

Well, I’m going to introduce you to Harvey’s Law. This is an equally twee maxim that the indispensability of your mobile – in whatever form it takes – doubles every twelve months. I have to put my hand up at this point and admit that this isn’t the first time I’ve named something after myself, Harvey’s Law joining a few other inventions (notably a modified vodka martini called Harvey’s Sugar Thermometer. It’s got jam in, you’d love it), but my point stands; again, imagine a world where you are – quite literally – tied to the telecoms network through woven strands of copper. How primitive.

Think back. Can you remember business without mobiles? It was hideous. The minute someone went more than ten meters from their desk they might as well have been on the moon. Not just for obvious derelictions of duty, like attending a meeting or driving down to a different office or branch, but even for popping out for a sandwich, for a cigarette, for a piss. Now, you can get in touch with someone in roughly four or five tiny flips of your thumb. Then –  such a long time ago – then it was a nightmarish game of telephone-tag between your secretaries. A mere ten years later (people used to call that length of time a decade, by the way. Now it’s known as a Tony) and we’re all connected through the cellular network, through the air, with secretaries now relegated to the dustbin of history, along with answering machines, cassette-tape, Ministerial Responsibility and yo-yos.

Think back. The way we socialise now is different, better, faster, more liquid. Something as simple as popping out for a drink now is ripe with possibilities – ten seconds of texting another friend, then another, to entice them out often, for example, leads to the best, most enjoyable evenings. This spontaneity is priceless. Before mobiles? You’d spend half an hour organising a handful of people to meet up. Didn’t previous generations have anything better to do with their time…?

Think back. Romance. I used to envision Victorian England to be the most hazard-fraught time to start dating – should you manage to actually get an evening alone with the object of your affections, after dodging her angry father & evading her psychotic chaperone, then you run the risk of getting fatally impaled on a shard of whalebone as you’re trying to get her bra off. But now, now I find it incredibly hard to even start to put myself in the situation of not having a mobile – it’s not just the little things (you’re in a bar, you get a girl’s number. But no phone! What do you note it down on?) but it’s critical to every stage of a relationship these days; from the opening texts, increasing in flirtyness until a date’s arranged. And then the date itself – imagine trying to meet up in anywhere in, say, Zone 1 when you can’t drop a quick voicemail to tell them that you’ll be late, or that you can’t work out just which Starbucks they actually meant, or that you can’t come at all because you’ve found someone prettier.

I actually get sent that last one a lot.

I say all of this not to harp on about why your mobile is great, or how lucky you are to have it, or just how clever you are to belong to an industry that’s advancing far faster than the bovine throngs can keep up with – I’m saying all this because, on the sort of day that I’m having, these thoughts might stop you from taking a handset-shaped chunk out of the plaster. Because, on such a day, the very last thing you need is to talk to gum-chewing Donna in Insurance Team 6.
There is, of course, one final reason why it’d be a bad idea to turn the clock back a Tony – you’d have to explain to your grandmother, again, just what a ‘mobile phone” was.

‘That’s very modern, deary. I bet it needs a lot of wire…”

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Thanks Ben!

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